BlackBerry and Girl Guides Canada launch cybersecurity program for girls

The program is designed to give young girls the skills they need to enter the cybersecurity industry

BlackBerry and Girl Guides of Canada have announced the launch of a new cybersecurity skills-based program called Digital Defenders.

The two organizations made the announcement at the BlackBerry World Tour 2019 event in Toronto on November 7th.

The program is designed to provide girls with a skill-set to spark interest in the cybersecurity industry. It takes a “how stuff works” approach that gives young girls an in-depth look into cybersecurity.

Digital Defenders is developed to teach girls how computers, encryption and malware work. It also aims to teach them how data travels and how authentication works to protect information. Throughout the course, cybersecurity experts at BlackBerry teach the girls about how machine learning is used to predict and prevent cyber attacks.

Additionally, the girls get to explore how patches and firewalls protect computers, and how cybersecurity creates layers of protection. The program also teaches the girls how pen testing and hacking works.

Jill Zelmanovits, the CEO of Girl Guides Canada, said that the mission behind Digital Defenders is to “empower every girl to be everything she wants to be.”

“Girls want to learn about all sorts of different things and one of the areas they told us was important to them was cybersecurity,” said Zelmanovits. “It’s not only about bringing cybersecurity skills, it’s also about more girls seeking careers in the industry.”

Digital Defenders aims to teach girls about complicated matters in a way that is easy and fun to decipher while putting their skills to the test.

For instance, one of the activities that the girls do as part of the course is undergo an escape room challenge. They’re put in a hypothetical situation where they have planned a camping trip, and once they arrive at the campsite, they learn that the website for the campsite has been hacked.

The girls then have to solve a number of different puzzles to restore the website. This kind of hands-on experience is meant to help the girls apply the skills that they develop to the real world, Zelmanovits explained.

Additionally, the girls are put to the test through a number of different games, such as ‘virus malware tag.’  Zelmanovits says the girls are able to to extrapolate information from these kinds of games in a fun way.

Sarah Tatsis, the vice-president of Advanced Technology Development Labs at BlackBerry, said that a group of female cybersecurity experts within the company created and reviewed the program.

She also touched on how there are a number of unfilled positions in the cybersecurity industry. However, with a program like this, young girls are given the space to exercise their curiosity for cybersecurity and enter the workforce when they are older.

“Early exposure to cybersecurity skills will fill this growing gap,” she explained. “The girls will be able to come and enter the workforce in those roles.”

During the program, the girls also take home a tip sheet about cybersecurity for their parents. The tip sheet is aimed to start discussions on the importance of cybersecurity.

The program is now available to girls from ages 5-18, with different topics based on the age groups. Girls who complete the program will earn a Digital Defenders crest.

  • Image credit: Girl Guides Canada